The last few weeks have been spent busing it around Spain.
I travelled from Barcelona to Valencia where I stayed for a week. Valencia is a beautiful city surrounded by orange groves (of course!) Not as spectacular as Barcelona however pretty amazing. And the street art! The first thing I noticed when I was walking from the local bus to the Airbnb was the street art, and in the old town it is everywhere. I was more caught up with it than with the buildings! Throughout the backstreets of the old town there is so much street art – some legal, some not. I ended up going on a free street art tour. I’m not a big fan of tours, however this one piqued my interest and was not historical (because we know how much I love history!) and it was Free! There are a lot of these free tours in Spain and there is an expectation to pay something at the end although not a requisite. I did end up giving the tour guide some money as the tour was great and I loved her enthusiasm for street art. I had already discovered a lot of the art, but had missed some major pieces so it was worth it. It also made me more aware of the actual artists, rather than just the art. Summer is not the best time to visit as not only is it incredibly hot and humid. Parts of Valencia stop as shop owners close their shops to head off on summer vacation. That didn’t impact on me very much as I’m not a shopper however the heat did get overwhelming at times. The day it hit 42 degrees and a zillion percent humidity, I escaped into an air conditioned room and didn’t move!
I decided to hit the south coast to give myself a break from the cities (and the heat!). I bussed it down to Torrevieja which I thought would be a quiet little tourist spot however it was a very busy metropolis with an above average (in my opinion) influx of English holiday makers. I stayed in an apartment not far from the beach which was pretty nice. Walking down to the beach reminded me of home as my beautiful little house is 600 metres from the ocean. Although I miss my beautiful space and friends, I know it will be there when I get back with very few changes. It was a nice respite from the heat being near the water and I do love being in the ocean. The most amazing thing about this area was the Laguna Rosa. It was about a 50 minute walk from where I was staying and was well worth it! This beautiful lake is pink and incredibly salty. It’s pink due to some bacteria which is also found in the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake (according to Dr Google!). Anyhow, it is incredible and worth the visit.
I moved onto Alicante as I had been told it was beautiful. Alicante definitely is a beautiful little city. The focal point of the city is the Santa Barbara Castle which is on a hill near the beach. It can be seen from most vantage points in Alicante. The castle dates back to the 9th century when that part of the coast was in Muslim hands until it was captured on the Saint Barbara feast day (hence the name) by the Castilian Christians. There are less tourists than in Torrevieja and the beach was not as crowded. It was nice to have some more downtime before hitting the big cities again. I was staying in an Airbnb with a Russian girl and a Danish couple. Except for the Danish guy, they were not that friendly which as an Australian out there type of person, I found a bit difficult, however I got used to the lines of non-communication. It was interesting living very separately and almost avoiding each other in the apartment. Travelling solo can be a lonely venture and communication would have been nice. Regardless, I really enjoyed being there. The apartment was beautiful and had a lovely patio with an amazing view of the ocean and the castle. From where I was, I could walk along the beach promenade to the city. In fact, everything was walkable which suited me fine.
Then off I went to Granada. Granada is absolutely stunning! I loved it as soon as I arrived. The old style apartment I stayed at overlooked a cute little square where the local old guys meet and chat. This is something I’ve noticed throughout the European countries I have been travelling around – wherever there is somewhere to sit in the shade, you will find groups of old guys sitting and chatting. It was lovely listening to them, albeit, not understanding a word they were saying! I did the touristy stuff as one does and particularly enjoyed heading up the hills to see the old churches and monastery. The villages around these places are beautiful and it is not as touristy as some of the places. The centre of Granada is Alhambra which is on a hill overlooking the rest of Granada. It can be seen from numerous vantage points. It was built at the end of the Muslim rule in the mid 13th century before being taken over by the Castilian Christians. I didn’t get to go in as the tickets were sold out for over a week and I had already booked my travel ahead of time, which is disappointing but c’est la vie. It was an incredibly touristy area and although it was beautiful especially as it was surrounded by beautiful trees, I didn’t enjoy it as much as wandering the streets outside the city. Obviously I may have thought differently if I had of seen Alhambra as I have no doubt it would have been magnificent.
I took a bus the Seville which is an inland city not far from the border of Portugal. I didn’t take to Seville like I did to Granada. I think part of the reason was that I was well over churches and cathedrals for twofold reasons. For one, I think I need variety in my touristic escapade. Since being in Turkey, I have seen so many churches that I’m finding them a little boring (except Sagrada Familia of course!). I know that they vary greatly, and I actually still enjoy the more gothic churches, but I’m not that impressed by the opulence. Which brings me to the second reason – the full on opulence of the churches and cathedrals. They can be so over the top, and dare I say, gaudy (which appears to be acceptable for churches and Christmas decorations). I’m a bit of a minimalist so find it a bit too full on anyway, however, when beggars are at the doors it definitely reveals the deficiencies in a system where these churches are so obviously rich while people in the streets go without. It contradicts my perception of what Christianity should be about. Anyway, that’s a whole different discussion, however, I do question my unwitting (or not) support of a system like this as I have paid to see these churches. What does that make me? (Rhetorical question…no need to answer!).
I did my usual hunt for street art and found some along the river, however the majority of it was tagging (which isn’t my thing). I found it interesting that the part of the river which was touristy was in good condition, however the rest of the riverside was overrun with weeds and broken glass. Other than that there wasn’t much street art (that I could find) except in a suburb about 30 minutes by bus outside of Seville which reminded me very much of housing commission suburbs in Australia. The area is full of apartment blocks with very little difference between them. Apparently the government wanted to cheer the place up a bit so commissioned street artists to do some work. I’m not sure if it makes a difference for the inhabitants however it is beautiful. I particularly loved the flamenco dancer (for the inscription more than the artwork). It says ‘Now you understand why my heads not bowed, it’s in the click of my heals, the bend of my hair, the palm of my hand, the need of my care, ‘cause I’m a phenomenally phenomenal woman, that’s me!’.
Speaking of flamenco, I really wanted to know something about flamenco so I went on another free tour (and gave money at the end) which gave the history of flamenco. In Seville, flamenco started across the river in Traina which is where the poor and the gypsies lived. The well to do Sevillians saw the Trainians enjoying themselves singing and dancing (the guitar came later as most poor people couldn’t afford them) and wanted the same so they imported some gypsies over the river to entertain them. The guide said that ‘flamenco’ means ‘evolution’ which is essentially what flamenco did. It evolved (devolved?) from ad hoc storytelling to rehearsed entertainment and the outfits became more fashionable and extremely expensive. She also said that the Spanish word ‘ole’ came from the Arabic word Allah and basically means, ‘oh my god, that’s amazing!’. The guide left us at a flamenco bar in the old part of Seville where there was a short free show. After a taste, I went to a show in Triana which was allegedly more authentic than the Sevillian shows. It was in a small, intimate theatre with not too many people and there was a sense of simplicity in the dress and the performance. Obviously it was rehearsed on some level, however, I really loved it and it was a great way to finish my time in Spain.
So there endeth my time in Spain. I have been travelling for almost 7 months now and my confidence as a sole traveller has grown exponentially. Initially I was getting taxis to and from airports and staying in hotels as I felt it was an easier option and less likely for me to get lost and my stress levels were pretty high. I have mostly been travelling by bus between destinations and have not been in a taxi since I was in Turkey, instead using public transport. I have to say though, that I love google maps! (Although sometimes not so much when I end up in the wrong place!). Anyone who know me knows that I have always been directionally challenged. The whole concept of left and right has not set in my brain for some reason and there is no hope with east and west! However, I have been managing to navigate my way around cities with no local language skills and have actually arrived at the right places (and when I haven’t, have enjoyed the adventure and seen some things I may not have otherwise). This is huge for me and may not excite those more directionally capable treasures out there, but for me it is a major accomplishment.
I really miss my home, my friends and the beautiful place that I live in, however, I have become accustomed to this itinerant lifestyle and part of me is concerned that I’m going to get itchy feet once I get settled back into my ‘normal’ life. Or maybe I’ll just adapt. Us humans are very blessed in our adaptability. We adapt to the bad things in our life which decreases the pain, but we also adapt to the good things in our life which decreases the joy. Outside of that, all we have is our attitude. Be miserable about the bad stuff that has happened to us and what we don’t have, or be grateful for the great things that have happened to us and what we do have. One thing that I have been learning on this journey (amongst many other things) is to go with the flow. One of the downsides of being an independent woman is that I always feel that I need to be in control otherwise things will not work out. Since travelling, I’ve come to realise that it is actually the opposite. When you let yourself go with the flow, beautiful things come your way. It may not be what you thought you wanted, however, it will be right for you. Not so great things come your way as well, however, it’s highly likely that they were coming your way anyway and having control of your life and your environment (as much as one can) doesn’t actually stop these things from happening. But it is so less stressful! I’m not advocating for sitting around and waiting for life to happen to you. We all need to have goals and to work towards these goals, however we also need to not be too attached to the outcomes as it doesn’t always go to plan and the disappointment in that can overwhelm us. Travelling has had it ups and downs as one would expect, and at the beginning of this journey I definitely felt a lot of lows, however, it has, and continues to be, an amazing opportunity which I continue to be grateful for.